Home Tools Coaching Questions Soliciting the Pre-Mortem and Riding the Change Curve: Coaching Tools, Strategies and Concepts for Effective Planning

Soliciting the Pre-Mortem and Riding the Change Curve: Coaching Tools, Strategies and Concepts for Effective Planning

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This post-decision tendency to justify one’s choice often will give any change effort an initial boost. This boost usually is short-lived, however, especially if there are people involved in the change effort that prefer the other haystack and would benefit in some way from the failure of this change initiative. Most importantly, the tendency to ignore negative implications of a chosen course of action, once the decision is made, will itself often contribute to the downturn in productively and morale, for problems associated with a change effort often will be ignored until they become particularly difficult to resolve. The “bugs” in a new website, for instance, may be overlooked during the pilot test phase because those involved in the program want it to succeed and therefore ignore these “trivial” difficulties. The true extent of the problem only becomes apparent when this website is accessed by all of the operating units of the company or by customers.

Responding to the Change

What typically happens after this downturn in productivity and morale? People involved in the change will either wait it out, to see if productivity and morale improve over time, or panic and decide either to return to the old way of doing things or institute yet another change. If the latter course of action is taken, then a particularly vicious cycle often is set in motion, for another change effort will institute yet another change curve—further reducing production and morale, leading to yet another change, another change curve and so forth. Very soon, this person or organization will suffer from the effects of uncontrolled change. A tailspin will ensue. Performance will become increasingly variable–in systems terms this is called “oscillation”. It usually precedes and is indicative of the system’s death.

At the very least, a system in which change itself has become a problem will experience a long term drop off in productivity and morale which may falsely be attributed to the first of the change efforts or to a whole series of decisions about change, rather than to the process of change itself. Thus, the Dean of a School of Medicine will complain about her “bad luck” in selecting four Assistant Deans over a six-year period who did not work out. The Manager of Glassware in a large department store will complain about his Assistant Buyer’s choice of a new line of stemware that didn’t initially sell very well, leading to a reorganization of the stemware display, which, in turn, led to an overall drop in stemware sales.

If a decision is made to return to the pre-change state, then a person or organization has benefited very little from the change effort. The same old problems remain unsolved. Those who formerly were optimistic about solving these problems through change are now disillusioned, because the change didn’t work, or embittered, because the change was never given an adequate chance to succeed. New problems may be added to the list of old problems as the person or organization attempts to make up for the drop in productivity and morale that was produced by the change effort.

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